So … this story begins in my gym, an environment best described as fluorescent lighting and a shortage of deodorant. It was here, amongst cries of “get a grip fatty,” my trainer finally said something I took seriously.
“Go to Ondine,” he said. “The food’s amazing.”
“Now?” I asked hopefully.
Sadly, two weeks elapsed between that conversation and our arrival at one the city’s best restaurants. Though naturally, it was worth the wait. What’s more, my brand new pinstripe jacket looked fabulous.
But I digress …
After the warmest of greetings, we were taken to the perfect table. Perfect, because it allowed us to observe the entire restaurant. Even better, it offered views out on to George IV Bridge, where the bustle and drama of the Old Town are always entertaining.
Soon there was freshly cooked bread, champagne, and two Crispy oysters before us. So already it was a fabulous night, and we hadn’t even picked up a menu. Though of course, that was the next treat in store.
Seduced by our deep-fried oysters, we made the inspired decision of ordering another half dozen, along with the first of many, many glasses of wine. Moans of pleasure soon ensued, and a woman at the next table was heard to say, “I’ll have what they’re having!”
Well okay, that didn’t actually happen, but Ondine’s signature dish really is a triumph. Because while oysters as nature intended can be an acquired taste, lightly fried they’re truly irresistible.
We followed this triumphant first act with the Haddock goujons with caper mayonnaise, and the Dressed brown crab. Both are beyond delicious, though Isaac insists the crab has the edge. Packed full of flavour and slightly sweet in taste, it’s mouthwatering.
In between courses (and bottles) we had the pleasure of meeting Danilo, the restaurant manager. A rather lovely man, whose passion for food is a family tradition going back several generations. He also gives faultless advice on how to navigate the menu.
Danilo’s top tip – and now ours – is the Lemon Sole Meunière with brown shrimps, parsley and capers. The intriguing combination of tastes, and indeed textures, make this dish an absolute stunner. We promise you every mouthful will be accompanied by an involuntary “wowzer!”
Isaac was similarly delighted by the Grilled Cornish Sea Bass with sauce vierge (lemon juice, tomato & basil), but had to concede that this time it was yours truly who’d chosen the best dish.
But it’s not just the inspired flavours exciting us so, we’re also blown away by how fresh everything tastes. Ondine’s secret: their suppliers offer them first pick. Order the lobster, and chances are it was very much alive mere minutes before it reaches your table.
Shamefully, I also polished off an entire side of Olive oil mash singlehandedly, and a plate of Tender broccoli with crispy chili and garlic. Though surely a personal trainer’s seal of approval means you can happily eat as much as you want? No??
Whatever the case, by this point we felt like we couldn’t eat another thing. But rather than admit defeat or heed the warnings of medical professionals, we instead took a short break (from eating at least) and gave our swollen bellies a chance to recover.
Twenty minutes on, I somehow found the space required for Ondine’s homemade Rum and Raisin ice cream, smothered in Pedro Ximenez sherry. Simple, but utterly exquisite.
Isaac meanwhile fell in love with the Mille feuille with blacketyside raspberries and meringue. Delicious alone, but accompanied by a glass of the muscat and the experience is sheer bliss.
Given the volume of food and wine we’d managed to consume, it was perhaps no surprise we were also the last to leave the restaurant. Though with food, atmosphere and service that’s all top-notch, we won’t be gone for long.
In a pre-theatre nutshell:
Nearby: Festival Theatre (9 minutes walk)
Perfect for: Everything.
Price: Pre-theatre 2 courses £19, 3 courses £23
2 George IV Bridge
The Old Town EH1 1AD
0131 226 1888